Organismal Biology & Behavior

Duke's Biology Department has a strong history of research and training in organismal biology and behavior. Physiology, comparative biomechanics, developmental biology, paleontology and macroevolution, neurobiology and behavioral ecology are all well-represented, with faculty working in diverse systems (both plant and animal) and on a large range of interesting problems in these fields. Organismal biology underlies and connects with essentially all major disciplines in biology, so faculty and students in this group have strong intellectual ties across the department.

Susan C. Alberts

Robert F. Durden Professor of Biology

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Vikas Bhandawat

Assistant Professor of Biology

THE GOAL: A major goal in neuroscience is to understand how neural circuits represent sensory information or guide behavior. Because of the complexity of our nervous system it is often difficult to pinpoint the neurons that participate in a given task. Our overall aim is to map out “complete circuits” underlying simple and complex behaviors and understand neural computations with a knowledge of this complete circuit in hand. APPROACH: We will focus on the relatively simple brain of Drosophila... Full Profile »

Sonke Johnsen

Professor in the Department of Biology

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Peter H. Klopfer

Professor Emeritus of Biology

mother-infant attachments in mammals and imprinting in birds development and control of aggressive behavior, and its neurobiological mechanisms. causes of species diversity. hibernation in lemurs Full Profile »

Daniel W. McShea

Professor in the Department of Biology

My main research interest is hierarchy theory, especially the causal relationship between higher-level wholes and their components (Spencer, Simon, Campbell, Salthe, Wimsatt). In biology, for example, we might want to know how large-scale processes within a multicellular organism act to control the smaller-scale processes within its component cells. Or, in the area of my current research, how do the emotions in mammals (and perhaps other animals) act to initiate and control conscious thought... Full Profile »

H. Frederik Nijhout

John Franklin Crowell Professor of Biology

Fred Nijhout is broadly interested in developmental physiology and in the interactions between development and evolution. He has several lines of research ongoing in his laboratory that on the surface may look independent from one another, but all share a conceptual interest in understanding how complex traits arise through, and are affected by, the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. 1) The control of polyphenic development in insects. This work attempts to understand how... Full Profile »

Stephen Nowicki

Professor of Biology

The Nowicki Laboratory studies behavioral ecology and neuroethology, especially questions about the function, structure and evolution of animal signaling systems. Although birds serve as a common model system in the lab, Nowicki and his students have worked on a variety of organisms including invertebrates such as insects, spiders, shrimp and lobsters, and other vertebrates including lizards, dolphins and primates. Steve Nowicki’s long-time research associate (and wife) is Susan Peters.... Full Profile »

Sheila N Patek

Associate Professor in the Department of Biology

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V. Louise Roth

Professor in the Department of Biology

In addition to conceptual work on the biological bases of homology, variation, and parallel evolution, my research has focused on evolutionary changes in size and shape in mammals: the functional consequences of these changes, and the evolutionary modifications of ontogenetic processes that produce them. This work makes use of DNA sequences, morphometric data, and geographic distributions to study macroevolutionary changes within a phylogenetic context. Projects have included DNA sequence... Full Profile »

Kathleen Kovalevski Smith

Professor of Biology

I am interested in the functional and evolutionary morphology of vertebrates. My research has included the functional and phylogenetic significance of variations in form of craniofacial structures in squamate reptiles and mammals, the biomechanics of a class of structures called musculohydrostats, and the roles of adaptive evolution and constraint in morphological diversification. My current focus is on the relation between evolutionary and developmental processes, with particular focus on... Full Profile »

John E. R. Staddon

James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience

John Staddon is interested in the evolution and mechanisms of animal learning. Current topics are timing and memory, feeding regulation, and the ways in which pigeons and rats adapt to reward schedules. Experimental work involves individual animals in computer-controlled environments, where we manipulate the reward and stimulus conditions and try to understand the rules animals follow as they adapt to these changes. Theoretical work involves both analytical and computer-simulation studies... Full Profile »

Vance A. Tucker

Professor Emeritus of Zoology

Vance Tucker is interested in comparative physiology, particularly the energetics of locomotion, and the interactions between an organism's natural environment and its respiratory and circulatory systems. Much of his research has dealt with the aerodynamics and energetics of avian flight, and has also included work on mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. He is... Full Profile »

Marcy K. Uyenoyama

Professor of Biology

Marcy Uyenoyama studies mechanisms of evolutionary change at the molecular and population levels. Among the questions under study include the prediction and detection of the effects of natural selection on genomic structure. A major area of research addresses the development of maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods for inferring evolutionary processes from the pattern of molecular variation. Evolutionary processes currently under study include characterization of population structure... Full Profile »

Stephen Wainwright

James B. Duke Prof Emeritus

Mechanical design in plants and animals and Unmanned Undersea Vehicles. 2- and 3-D images and working models as hypotheses to clarify structure and function. Full Profile »

Richard A. White

University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Botany

Studies in my laboratory are focused on the development and systematic anatomy/morphology of vascular plants, especially pteridophytes. Research activity is primarily concerned with the patterns of initiation, differentiation and maturation of vascular tissues in shoots of ferns, and their bearing on concepts of vascular organization. In particular, we... Full Profile »